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Retd bankers slam ex-SBI chair’s arrest

MUMBAI :

High-ranking former State Bank of India (SBI) officials have resurrected their social media accounts to denounce the arrest of erstwhile chairman Pratip Chaudhuri, as support continues to pour in following his arrest in a case of alleged mispricing of a stressed asset.

At least four former deputy managing directors have come on Twitter and LinkedIn, platforms some of them seldom use, to vouch for Chaudhuri’s integrity and their experiences working with him at India’s largest bank. Chaudhuri was the chairman between 2011 and 2013.

Chaudhuri’s arrest was widely criticized by the banking fraternity, which saw it as an assault on board-approved policies on bad loan sale. Others said it bordered on incredulity as bank chiefs are not involved in the sale of a ₹24 crore loan.

Former SBI deputy managing director Sujit Varma posted on LinkedIn on 8 November that all those who have known Chaudhuri or worked closely with him will unhesitatingly vouch for his unimpeachable integrity. In his last assignment at SBI, Varma was a deputy in the corporate loans division.

“Not the one to shy away from taking tough decisions when required, he (Chaudhuri) backed others to take decisions based on merit,” he wrote.

Varma also pointed out that the news of Chaudhuri’s arrest came on a day when the finance ministry proposed a uniform staff accountability framework to be adopted by state-owned banks for bad loan accounts up to ₹50 crore. The new norms are intended to assure bankers that maleficence will be punished, not genuine decisions.

“Incidents such as the one involving Chaudhuri is surely going to dent the confidence of bankers when it comes to making credit decisions. This will be counterproductive to all the measures taken by the government to give reasonable assurance to bankers that they will not be subjected to any undue actions by the various agencies for commercial decisions taken in good faith,” Varma wrote.

The case relates to a ₹24 crore loan granted by SBI to Hotel Gaudavan Pvt. Ltd in tranches, beginning January 2008.

Manju Agarwal, former deputy managing director tweeted that Chaudhuri had an impeccable reputation, no less than late another former chairman R.K. Talwar. “Most horrific! Absolutely shocking! Just because he is on the board of the ARC- he retired in Sep 2013 and sale to ARC happened in March 2014. How he could have influenced the decision?” she asked, tagging the Prime Minister’s office’s official twitter handle.

Venkat Nageswar Chalasani, another former deputy managing director tweeted that Chaudhuri is man of “high integrity and sincere to the core. I worked with him in close quarters. It’s very unfortunate whatever has happened. I am sure justice will prevail and he will come out unscathed.”

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